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Second half of Missouri’s 2018 session kicks off Monday

File photo | Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Capitol, shown here in a May 2017 photo.

Missouri lawmakers return to Jefferson City next week to begin the second half of the 2018 legislative session.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said his chamber will spend the bulk of their first week back debating the fiscal year 2019 state budget and voting it over to the Senate.

“It’s a budget that is balanced; it’s a budget that fully funds the (K-12) education formula, and it’s a budget that restores deep cuts to higher education,” Richardson said.

But Democrats, including Crystal Quade of Springfield, say the roughly $28.8 billion proposed budget contains no attempts to restore cuts made last year for in-home health care services.

“It wasn’t discussed at all by House budget writers – we spent 11 hours in that room, and it never came up once,” she said. “I am hoping that the majority party is not trying to forget that that was such a serious conversation and that we still have folks suffering every single day.”

Republican leaders in the Senate are placing a high priority on cutting the state income tax. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said their bill would also raise the state’s fuel tax to provide more funding for roads and bridges.

“The 10-cent gas tax, along with the indexing, was put on the (Senate) tax bill; and Representative Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, has a similar tax bill with a different funding mechanism that has to do with (user) fees,” Kehoe said. “I’m for ‘E, all of the above,’ whatever can make it to the finish line.”

Senate Republicans also plan to spend the second half working on reducing the number of so-called frivolous lawsuits filed in Missouri, a process known as tort reform. They also plan to resume debate on several bills designed to lessen the influence of labor unions in Missouri.

Also due during the second half of the 2018 session: a report from the House committee investigating the indictment of Gov. Eric Greitens on an invasion of privacy charge. Committee members have an April 9 deadline, but chairman Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, reminded the media recently that they have the authority to extend the investigation period if needed.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.